How One Church is Training Her People to Witness for Christ in A Skeptical, Jaded Culture
“How do Christians move forward in sharing our faith in this environment of fake news, bad news and a general mistrust of claims of truth?”
That’s a question many of us are asking ourselves, and it was the question St. John’s Vancouver, a church in the Anglican Network in Canada, posed to the entire congregation.
“I think every Christian who lives in the West has the sense right now that we are sailing in uncharted waters culturally,” Rev. Canon David Short, the rector of St. John’s, said. “The idea that there might be some sort of truth out there, we [people in our culture] don’t like that idea. And I think the affect for us as Christians has been uncertainty…and some of us, I think, have been silenced.”
This concerned the pastoral team at St. John’s, especially as they observed two specific trends in their city. One was a deep desire for spiritual authenticity. The second was a deepening suspicion that the Christian faith has nothing to offer.
“I think Vancouver thinks that God is, sort of, at best, irrelevant,” said one young parishioner.
“On the one side we have this fantastic good news about what God has done in Jesus Christ. And we know God through this gospel,” said Canon Short. “On the other side we have friends and family and neighbours who we love, but bringing those two things together seems to be more and more difficult.”
So, St. John’s resolved to do something fairly drastic. They paused all their other mid-week events and groups for a month and asked their entire congregation to attend a series of four meetings. They called the series CCQ – connect, content, questions.
“We’ve called it CCQ because each week we’re going to do three things,” said Canon Short in a promo video. “We’re going to talk about connecting with others, we’re going to talk about the content of the gospel, and we’re going to talk about questions that people have.
“As preachers, when we apply the Bible, we encourage people to share their faith, but I’m more and more conscious how complicated that is. It’s not a simple thing to do,” he said. “And the whole point of CCQ is to come together to pray, to lean on God, to listen to each other, to see if we can find a way forward to better do this.”
So, for four Tuesday evenings, everyone was asked to come, worship, pray, share, and learn, asking God for a way forward in equipping one another for the great task of evangelism. The evenings began with a focus on connecting with the people around them. Led by Rev. Aaron Roberts, they explored questions like “what’s important to your non-Christian friends?” and “how can we enter into a conversation about the gospel with grace and wisdom?”
“I really hope you will discover that you guys are actually better at this than you think you are,” he said on the first night.
“Because you know how to have relationships. You know how to have conversations. What we want to try and give you are some ideas about how to have these natural faith conversations.”
The second part of each night focused on the content of the gospel and was led by Canon Short.
“Perhaps when we do get to speak about Jesus we get a bit in a muddle and we’re not sure what we should say,” he said. So, they began to look very practically at the primary components of the gospel and the Christian faith, using an easy-to-remember, four-part structure – Creation, Fall, Jesus Christ, Response.
The third part of the evening focused on the inevitable questions we face while being bold with our faith. Led by Tad Inboden, there was teaching not only on apologetics but on growing more comfortable with people who are questioning. Time was given for role-play practice with questions like “aren’t Christians just hypocrites?”, “isn’t loving people all that matters?”, and “how can you claim that Jesus is the only way to God?”
CCQ sparked at St. John’s a renewed focus on being intentional, prayerful, and articulate in their witness for Christ in their city and it contributed needed training towards that task. But leadership at St. John’s is also very aware that it’s the gospel itself that enables and fuels its proclamation.
“When a heart is gripped by the gospel of grace,” said Tad Inboden, “when it is… captivated by the beauty of the gospel, the costliness of the gospel, when it overwhelms the imagination, it spurs us forward and sends us out on mission.” St. John’s has made much of the materials and recordings from their CCQ series available online for other churches.
You can find out more here: www.stjohnsvancouver.org/ccq-content
Scott Hunt is the Communications Director for the Anglican Network in Canada, a diocese of the Anglican Church in North America. He’s a member of St. George’s Burlington and lives in Fergus, Ontario with his wife, Richelle.